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19. The History of Costume
In the beginning Gandhiji used to wear a coat-pant and a hat. Then he started wearing a lungi (a wrap around cloth). Later he started wearing a dhoti, a long coat and a turban.
Then he changed to wearing clothes made from Khadi - a khadi shirt, a khadi stole and a khadi cap (topi) but later he started wearing only a khadi wrap around.
It would be interesting to know why Gandhiji made so many changes in his dressing habits!
He went to South Africa when he was young. He practiced there along with other pleaders and barristers. So he too wore western clothes like them.
But he realised that Indians were treated very badly there. So he prepared his people for satyagraha.
There were poor Indian labourers in his army. He thought that if he was going to lead them how could he dress up differently from them and eat good food too. A leader like Gandhiji was not going to make discrimination like this!
Then he decided to dress up like his poor brothers. So he bid good-bye to Western coat-pants and started wearing lungi and a shirt.
When he won the struggle for Indians in South Africa he thought of serving his motherland - India.
What sort of dress should he wear in his country?
Being a satyagrahi he was bound to take a decision only after proper inquiry. How would he come to his own country wearing any dress? He would not like this! He decided that he would not wear a suit in his country. There was nothing to bother when he wore a lungi in a foreign country where people were dressed in the same way. But it wouldn't look proper in his country.
After much thought he decided that he would board down the ship wearing the traditional costume of his birthplace - Kathiawad.
So, when Gandhiji returned to India, he started wearing a dhoti, long coat, a stole on his shoulder and a white turban as headgear.